Culture 7, page 118
Charles Dickens was born in 1812, on the south coast of England. He is one of the best-known writers in the world, and he wrote some of the most popular novels in the English language.
When Dickens was eleven, his family moved to London -a city which Dickens later set many of his novels in. They were poor and had to borrow money which they could not pay back. When Dickens was twelve, his father was sent to prison. Dickens had to leave school and work in a factory.
It was the end of his childhood.
Dickens worked as a journalist in London before he started writing novels. His first novel was called The Pickwick Papers and was incredibly successful. His second, Oliver Twist, was very popular too, both in England and in America. For a few years, Dickens found it hard to match that success. In 1843, he published a short novel called A Christmas Carol which introduced the character of Scrooge, a mean and cold-hearted man who hates everyone and everything - except money. Scrooge is one of the best-known characters in English literature, but Dickens' best novels were written later: Most people agree that his best novels are Bleak House, which he wrote in 1852, Great Expectations, published in 1860, and Our Mutual Friend, his last completed novel. Dickens himself had a favourite among his own work, David Copperfield, which he published in 1850.
Dickens writes about people like this because he himself had a difficult time when he was young.
Extract 1 shows the scene where he asks for more food.
Extract 2 shows the scene where the Artful Dodger introduces Oliver to Fagin.
Extract 1 The room in the workhouse where the boys were fed was a large stone hall, and at one end the master and two women served the food. This consisted of a bowl of thin soup three times a day, with a piece of bread on Sundays. The boys ate everything and were always hungry. The bowls never needed washing. The boys polished them with their spoons until they shone. After three months of this slow starvation, one of the boys told the others he was so hungry that one night he might eat the boy who slept next to him. He had a wild hungry eye, and the other boys believed him. After a long discussion, they decided that one of them should ask for more food after supper that evening, and Oliver was chosen.
The evening arrived; the soup was served, and the bowls were empty again in a few seconds. Oliver went up to the master, with his bowl in his hand. He felt very frightened, but also desperate with hunger.
'Please, sir, I want some more'
The master was a fat, healthy man, but he turned pale. He looked at the little boy in front of him with amazement. Nobody else spoke.
'What?' he asked at last, in a faint voice.
'Please, sir' replied Oliver, I want some more'
The master hit him with the serving spoon, then seized Oliver's arms and shouted for the beadle. The beadle came quickly, heard the dreadful news, and immediately ran to tell the board. 'He asked for more?' Mr Limbkins, the fattest board member, asked in horror. 'Bumble - is this really true?'
'That boy will be hanged!' said the man who earlier had called
Oliver a fool. 'You see if I'm not right'
Oliver was led away to be locked up.
Extract 2 'Who's there?' a voice cried out.
'It's me' said the Dodger. The faint light of a candle appeared in the hall.
'Who's the other one?'
'A new friend.'
They went up some dark and broken stairs. Oliver could hardly see where he was going, but the Dodger seemed to know the way, and helped Oliver up. They entered a room with walls that were black with age and dirt. In front of the fire was a table with a candle stuck into a bottle of beer, and an old man, with a horribly ugly face and red hair, stood next to the fire cooking. He was wearing a dirty old coat and seemed to divide his attention between his cooking and a number of silk handkerchiefs, which were hanging near the fire. There were several rough beds in the room. Four or five boys, about the same age as the Artful Dodger, sat round the table, smoking and drinking like middle-aged men. They all looked up when the Dodger and Oliver entered.
'This is him, Fagin' the Dodger said to the old man. 'My friend Oliver Twist.'
Fagin smiled and shook Oliver's hand. Then all the young gentlemen came up to him and shook both his hands very hard, especially the hand which held his few possessions. One of the boys was particularly kind. He even put his hands in Oliver's pockets so that Oliver would not have to empty them himself when he went to bed. The boys would probably have been even more helpful, but Fagin hit them on their heads and shoulders until they left Oliver alone.
'We're very glad to see you, Oliver' said Fagin. 'I see you're staring at the handkerchiefs, my dear. Aren't there a lot? We've just taken them all out to wash them, that's all! Ha! Ha! Ha!'
This seemed to be a joke, as the old gentleman and all his young friends gave loud shouts of laughter. Then supper began. Oliver ate his share of the food and was then given a glass of gin-and-water. Fagin told him to drink it fast. Immediately afterwards, Oliver felt himself lifted onto one of the beds and he sank into a deep sleep.
When he awoke it was late morning.
1 Because they ate everything and polished their bowls with their spoons.
2 He threatened to eat the boy.
3 He is contrasting the man, who is fat and healthy because he eats well, with the boys, who are thin and unhealthy because they don't have enough to eat.
4 The master hits him with the serving spoon and he is locked up.
5 The old man was cooking at the fire. There were beds in the room. They had supper in the room.
6 He may have felt relieved and grateful after his treatment at the workhouse.
7 Students' own answers
8 They probably steal and pick pockets. There are silk handkerchiefs in the room which have probably been stolen, and the boys take O liver's possessions.